Pre-schoolers LOVE art and craft! Sticking, cutting, colouring, exploring – for them it’s not about the finished product. They simply love the process of creating and getting messy in the moment… whatever the end result might be.
But did you know that these simple craft activities are also an essential part of developing a child’s early literacy and other skills?
Beyond simply putting paintbrush to paper, the process of creativity helps kids develop cognitively, boosting a child’s ability to analyse and problem-solve, as well as developing socially and emotionally. Children who feel confident to experiment and make mistakes, feel free to create new ways of thinking, something that goes well beyond the craft table. Letting kids explore and creative with boxes, old pieces of fabric, string, bottle tops, paper tubes, fosters imagination and creativity. Counting pieces and colours introduces the basics of maths. Experimenting with different materials, introduces the foundations of science.
As kids pick up a pencil, move a paintbrush, sprinkle glitter, their fine motor skills are being tested and enhanced. Colouring, sticking, painting, cutting, all also rapidly develop hand-eye coordination.
Oh, we love a bit of sneaky early literacy, and craft sessions are a fabulous way to enhance early language skills in a super-fun way. With so many different items, the vocabulary available at the craft table is endless. From shimmery glitter and crinkly paper, to rigid boxes or delicate flowers, using a range of adjectives to describe the items exposes kids to words they might never usually hear. Chat with your toddler about what they are doing to help them use more descriptive words in their conversation. Take it one step further by having them come up with a story about their creation. The ginormous pirate ship sailed the vivid blue sea; the higgledy-piggledy tree house climbed through the impressive oak tree.
The good thing is, kids don’t need expensive craft materials to achieve any of this! Old cereal boxes, bottle caps, broken clothes pegs are all fantastic items for the next art project. And through this process, kids are learning to recycle and find new value in unused items. Recycled art is a rapidly growing trend – a bottle top can be a hat, a button is a moon – turning these items into something else enhances their critical thinking skills and their ability to see things in a different light.
Be prepared for mess. Ideally, set up an art space where kids can be free to experiment and get messy. Put down a drop-sheet in the garage, or let them paint outside.
Have a box of different materials readily available: bottle tops, old cardboard boxes, bits of fabric, sponges, ribbon, sticks, buttons, shells, pebbles, old magazines, cupcake wrappers, feathers, sequins, egg cartons… whatever you can find!
Avoid giving direction. Instead of telling them what to paint, encourage them to start with mixing colours or different brushes on a range of papers or textures, and see what happens!
Always ask questions and explore their process. ‘Why did you choose that colour?’ or ‘Tell me about what you made’ are great ways of starting a conversation.
Though it can be tempting to draw or create alongside them, because older children and adults often draw something literal, it can be frustrating for the younger ones. So, rather than draw with them, the best thing you can do is to be nearby to chat and be interested. (Yay to that, says all the non-crafty parents in the room!).
Also, never suggest changes or additions. Even if it is a scribble on a page, it’s important that a child feels like it’s enough.
Most of all, have FUN!
Need some more inspiration? Head over to your local library for bundles of early literacy, craft, creativity ideas and more!